Franklin-The "brutalest" battle of them all.

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#1
I am just coming to the end of Wiley Sword's "The Confederacy's Last Hurrah". The battle of Nashville has just started but I know it will be totally anti-climatic because of where Sword has just before taken me-The Battle of Frankin. As I read of the ferocity, intensity,brutality and sheer terror of the battle I found my jaw dropping in absolute awe.From where in the name of God did Hood's army dredge up the courage to mount and sustain their attack for so long in the face of heavily reinforced works and such remorseless fire? I would regard myself as a sort of honourary Yankee but my admiration of these Southern men is boundless.
I found Sword's treatment of the aftermath very moving. The eye witness accounts from both sides and all ranks of the mangled heaps of riddled corpses, the agonised groans of the wounded and the fear and terror frozen on the faces of the bodies in death's rigour would draw tears from granite. I don't mind confessing that I got a wee bit emotional reading this particular chapter.
This must surely have been the most ferocious contest of arms of the whole war.
Micky.
 

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gunny

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#2
Sword's narrative of Nashville is anti-climatic anyway. There are few good books that cover the fighting there, but Sword does do a great job of visualizing the fighting at Franklin. Historians have stated for years that Cold Harbor was the bloodiest hour of the war, but I tend to lean toward Franklin.

Contact was made at 4:15ish and the sun sank at 4:30. It is dark that time of year at 5 p.m. anyway - forget the smoke from the battle. I KNOW it's easier to hit a target when you can still see it to aim at it; thus, the defenders and attackers only had about about thirty to forty minutes to truly draw a bead on their opponents.

As the total casualty count for the battle nears 10,000 men - about 7,000+ Confederates, it is safe to say that 70-80% of those took place in the first hour!

Jamie
 

Georgia Sixth

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#3
Franklin was perhaps in another league from even Pickett's Charge. Similar to Fredericksburg in the grim determination and courage of the forlorn attackers. For a maelstrom of carnage, equalled, really, only by Cold Harbor, in which I believe the bulk of the casualties were sustained in about a quarter of an hour. (Someone please correct me if I'm mistaken.) That the battle is so little remembered today is a true travesty.
 

Carronade

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#4
The Confederates did achieve a break into the Union lines - right in the center, attacking up the main road, seemingly the least likely place for it. Union reserves were able to seal the breach before the rebs could exploit it, but it's not quite impossible that the assault could have succeeded.

Garrett Mattingly's book about the Spanish Armada cites a Spanish officer saying they were sailing against England "in the confident hope of a miracle", and perhaps some of that spirit animated Hood's army. The Confederacy needed a miracle at that point, and they almost got one.
 

Buckeye Bill

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#6
The site surrounding the Carter House after the battle must have been one of the most brutal scenes of the war.
 

gunny

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#7
I've always said that it was only the insubordination of Opdycke when called on to place his brigade on the advance line that saved the day. Yes, the 44th Missouri and 183rd Ohio were at the Carter House, but had Opdycke not moved into a the reserve position that he did, it is almost unquestionable that those two green regiments could never have stopped Brown's swarming Tennesseans from exploiting the breakthrough.

Jamie
 
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#8
The annals of war may long be searched for a parallel to the desperate valor of the charge of the Army of Tennessee at Franklin, a charge which has been called "the greatest drama in American history." Perhaps its only rival for macabre distinction would be Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. A comparison of the two may be of interest. Pickett's total loss at Gettysburg was 1,354; at Franklin the Army of Tennessee lost over 6,000 dead and wounded. Pickett's charge was made after a volcanic artillery preparation of two hours had battered the defending line. Hood's army charged without any preparation. Pickett's charge was across an open space of perhaps a mile. The advance at Franklin was for two miles in the open, in full view of the enemy's works, and exposed to their fire. The defenders at Gettysburg were protected only by a stone wall. Schofield's men at Franklin had carefully constructed works, with trench and parapet. Pickett's charge was totally repulsed. The charge of Brown and Cleburne penetrated deep into the breastworks, to part of which they clung until the enemy retired. Pickett, once repelled, retired from the field. The Army of Tennessee renewed their charge, time after time. Pickett survived his charge unscathed. Cleburne was killed, and eleven other general officers were killed, wounded or captured. "Pickett's charge at Gettysburg" has come to be a synonym for unflinching courage in the raw. The slaughter-pen at Franklin even more deserves the gory honor.

- Stanley F. Horn, The Army of Tennessee

I tend to disagree with the above assertion that "perhaps [Franklin's] only rival for macabre distinction would be Pickett's Charge" and side with many of you who find Cold Harbor (or Fredericksburg) a more appropriate comparison, but nonetheless the above passage says quite a lot.

My 3rd great grandfather was a Union soldier at Franklin, at Fort Granger on the eastern bank of the Harpeth (away from the fighting) at the time of the battle. I've always wondered what sounds filled his ears that day and what his reaction was when he learned of the events of the day when night finally ended that brutal 30th of November.
 
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#9
I've always said that it was only the insubordination of Opdycke when called on to place his brigade on the advance line that saved the day. Yes, the 44th Missouri and 183rd Ohio were at the Carter House, but had Opdycke not moved into a the reserve position that he did, it is almost unquestionable that those two green regiments could never have stopped Brown's swarming Tennesseans from exploiting the breakthrough.

Jamie
When he disagreed with deployment orders he was told to take his units and do what he wished. He put them exactly where they needed to be; good fortune? Maybe so but if he had not disagreed with the original plan it could not have happened.
 

AUG

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#11
The thing about Franklin is that you had some 20,000 men converging in on a point only around half a mile in width. That's what made Franklin such a fierce and chaotic battle - so many men were stacked in around such a small area and were blown away in only a few hours.

Because the brigades were so stacked up, the assault continued for as long as it did. As one brigade would melt away the other behind it would run up and get shot to pieces. The men would retreat and regroup, or take their place in the next unit running up and attack again. To the Federals, it gave the impression that the Confederates were charging in waves. Another thing about Franklin is the large amount of close range combat over the earthworks. Unlike Pickett's Charge, Fredericksburg or Cold Harbor, a large number of Confederate troops managed to reach the Federal works but were stuck in the outer ditch, only the wall of dirt between either side.
 
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#13
Franklin was perhaps in another league from even Pickett's Charge. Similar to Fredericksburg in the grim determination and courage of the forlorn attackers. For a maelstrom of carnage, equalled, really, only by Cold Harbor, in which I believe the bulk of the casualties were sustained in about a quarter of an hour. (Someone please correct me if I'm mistaken.) That the battle is so little remembered today is a true travesty.
I agree with your post, but the greater travesty is the housing that was built right on this important battlefield. So sad. So shortsighted.
 

ole

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#15
Updyke's men were not actually intended to be reserves. He was ordered to occupy a small rise in advance of the Union with the rest of a division. He refused. Took his brigade into town. They were a very handy reserve to plug the breach when it came.

By the way, the breach was largely caused because those fleeing from the small rise impeded fire from the defenders of Columbia Pike.
 

Georgia Sixth

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#17
The slaughters at Franklin, Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg, and Pickett's Charge were horrendous to say the least, but each assault was preformed and fought out differently.

Pickett's Charge is much more like the attack on July 3 at Cold Harbor, both lasted a short amount of time, very few men broke through, and both saw similar casualty numbers. Pickett's Charge stretched only for about half a mile in length and in width, whereas the attack on July 3 at Cold Harbor stretched for almost a mile and a half in width.

Fredericksburg was divided up into two separate fronts - Marye's Heights and Prospect Hill/Slaughter Pen - but Marye's Heights is known for its separate, piecemeal attacks by each of the three divisions of the II Corps at a time as they melted away one by one. None of the Federals attacking Marye's Heights reached the stone wall.

The thing about Franklin is that you had 5 divisions, stretching about a mile in width, converging in on a line of works less than half a mile in width. That's what made Franklin such a fierce and chaotic battle, so many men were stacked in around such a small area and were blown away in only a few hours. You had around 20,000 Confederates converging on a point less than 3,000 feet in width (not counting Bate's Division attacking the Federal right later).

Because the brigades were so stacked up, the assault continued for as long as it did; as one brigade would melt away the other behind it would run up and get shot to pieces. The men would retreat and regroup, or take their place in the next regiment running up and attack again. To the Federals, it gave the impression that the Confederates were being sent in almost piecemeal. Another thing about Franklin is the large amount of close range combat over the earthworks. Unlike any of the other three assaults, the Confederates managed to reach the Federal works all across the line, but were stuck outside in the ditch and fought right over the works.
Fantastic observations, AUG. Thanks for sorting out all that detail and sharing with us.
 

Nathanb1

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#20
If you guys haven't watched Cartwright's video around the action in front of Carter House, you should. It's pretty darn graphic, and makes it come alive to me. Good stuff.
If you haven't stood in the cellar of the Carter House and heard account of young Annie Carter, you haven't quite gotten it, either.
 



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